Festivus for the rest of us: It’s the annual ‘Airing of Grievances’ editorial

By Brandi Makuski and Patrick Lynn

Break out your aluminum pole, because Wednesday is Festivus. And it wouldn’t hurt Stevens Point, and a few other municipalities in the area, to participate in the Airing of Grievances.

Festivus, a spoof holiday celebrated by diehard fans of the popular 1990’s show “Seinfeld,” was charter Frank Constanza’s answer to the commercialism of Christmas. It consists of three basic elements: a “traditional” dinner of meatloaf or plain spaghetti; the Airing of Grievances, an opportunity to share one’s disappointments from throughout the year; and Feats of Strength, when the head of a household is wrestled and pinned to the floor.

All year long, Metro Wire staff obtains volumes of off-the-record comments, witnesses ridiculous back-biting between elected officials, and encounters absurd bureaucratic red tape during our news collections efforts. We save most of them just for this day.

Nobody can argue 2020 wasn’t a really hard year, harder than any other in most of our lifetimes. But while many were focused on state and national issues, our staff remained focused on hyperlocal news, frankly, because nobody else did.

So we present our readers with the 2020 Airing of Grievances:

-The lack of trained journalists serving Portage County. It means more people turn to social media for information, even if the information isn’t cited or comes from a suspicious source.

-A lack of interest to serve on the Dewey Town Board. Poor Town Chairman Maurice King is having trouble garnering interest in filling the three-member board.

-A recent change in state law that restricts information previously available to the public, and the press, and the staff in the court system, on the Wisconsin Circuit Court System website.

-People who think journalism is easy, yet won’t apply for a job when we announce we’re hiring. Join us. We dare you.

-New lane striping on Michigan Avenue, especially near Main and Clark streets. What the hell, Stevens Point?

-Business owners and business association groups who cry “Support local business!” but then choose to advertise on Facebook instead of a locally-owned newspaper.

-Typos. We’re human, we make mistakes (and we try to correct them quickly). But we still hate them.

-Poor COVID communication from the state. Hey, Dept. of Health Services: throw the Portage Co. Health Department a bone, will ya?

-The plight of residents in Four Seasons Mobile Home Community, which appears to go oddly unnoticed by the Stevens Point City Council, a group that recently began taking up just about every social justice cause they encounter.

-Local elected officials who bully journalists.

-Local elected officials who argue with members of the public in a comment section, then cry “censorship!” when they’re banned from commenting.

-People who complain about an issue on social media but refuse to write a Letter to the Editor.

-People who type in all capital letters. STOP.

-The Fox Network, for canceling “Firefly.” Browncoats forever!

-Public Relations folks who use ridiculous titles like “Communicator of Awesome” on their email signatures and business cards.

-People who call us to threaten a lawsuit, or worse, for publishing a story about their criminal charges.

-People who ask questions or make claims about a news story on social media without first reading it.

-People who don’t subscribe but complain about a lack of news coverage because they don’t see it on Facebook.

-Meleesa Johnson’s “hats.” Ms. Johnson works by day as the solid waste director for Marathon County, but is also an elected Portage Co. Board Supervisor, an elected Stevens Point City Council member, and serves on numerous diversity and policy boards within local government. She often talks about “putting on her hat” related to one position or another, though nobody seems concerned with one person having their hand in so many different cookie jars.

-Also, the constant use of the word “echo” during city council meetings. The phrase, “I echo my colleague’s sentiments/thoughts/concerns” is used at least once every few minutes during Every. Single. City. Meeting.

-Stanley Street…just put it back. The road diet was an enormous waste of time and money that did nothing to correct a single identified problem on the road—namely, the ability for pedestrians and bicyclists to cross Stanley St., or the ability to turn left on to Stanley St. from a crossroad.

-The city’s new media policy. It escaped coverage in nearly every local news outlet, but it restricts communication between city staff and the press, leaving many local news stories unreported or underreported.

-When a reader says they have a great story, but won’t go on the record or provide any substantial information.

-The divisiveness in the village of Park Ridge—and the lack of media cooperation newly-elected trustees have already shown by not permitting the press to attend their recent swearing-in ceremonies. You now have our full attention.

Eat. Drink. Take care of each other, and Happy Festivus.